Lifestyle, Local, Travel

joburg city guide: braamfontein revisited

Graeme Wyllie

Fresh tenants, renovated buildings and a renewed vision put ‘Braam’ precinct on a new footing as the heart and soul of Johannesburg’s thriving art scene.

ALSO READ: Mixed use: Victoria Yards in Joburg leads the way in social development

1. Wits Art Museum

Along with the arrival of Wits Art Museum in the epic space it occupies today, a whole new energy in the Braamfontein art scene has been ushered in. From the museum’s regular career-spanning retrospectives of work by the likes of Gerard Sekoto, Andy Warhol and Walter Battiss to its eye-opening ‘object biography’ exhibitions showcasing the extraordinary Wits African art collection, it is a unique art space on the continent. Currently the museum is hosting a moving survey of Sabelo Mlangeni’s photographic works, curated by Kabelo Malatsie, whom we feature in our Style Profile (p128) this month. Find it at University Corner, cnr Jorissen and Bertha Streets, 011-717-1365.

2. Kalashnikovv Gallery

Kalashnikovv was one of the first galleries on the block, and owners MJ Turpin and Matthew Dean Dowdle keep that underground, edgy spirit of the area alive in their new venue on the corner of the 70 Juta development. Expect exhibitions by young genre-defying artists such as Ayanda Mabulu, Mxolisi Vusi Beauchamp and Maaike Bakker. Kalashnikovv is also a standout feature at the FNB JoburgArtFair, so don’t miss it at this year’s event. Find it at 70 Juta St, 073-124-8183.

3. Testament bar

Right next door to their gallery space, the boys from Kalashnikovv have opened an ‘art bar’ where you can knock back some of their one-of-a-kind seasonal cocktails while immersing yourself in the ever-rotating, hyper-conceptual art installations that are set up inside. Johannesburg insiders know the legacy of MJ and Matthew’s early-2000s inner-city parties, so prepare yourself for some of the best music and vibes that Joburg has to offer. Find it at 68 Juta St, 073-124-8183. Testament Bar

ALSO READ: Polytheism: make Testament Bar's perfectly wicked G&T

4. Umuzi

Umuzi creative academy and agency has produced some of the country’s most exciting young creatives, one of them being photographer Kgomotso Neto Tleane, and the organisation’s project space at 70 Juta exposes its freshest voices. The academy regularly takes over the 70 Juta block with mesmerising installations and hosts street events that capture the essence of the Braamfontein scene. Find it at 70 Juta St. 

5. Stevenson Gallery

South African art veterans such as Penny Siopis, Jane Alexander and Zanele Muholi all call Stevenson home, and the Joburg chapter has had some of their most groundbreaking exhibitions open to the world for the first time. Stevenson is also becoming a power player globally for its impressive monographs and publishing projects, so make sure you check it out. Find it at 62 Juta St, 011-403-1055.

Serge Alain Nitegeka 'Colour and Form LXI', 2018. Currently on show at Stevenson.

6. 99 Juta

Three storeys of the country’s most inspiring design spaces occupy the brand-new 99 Juta development, including standalone stores by Dokter and Misses, Joe Paine, Houtlander and Apartment 2B (which features the creative genius of House and Leisure favourite Mash. T Design Studio). Head all the way to the top of the staircase to see Dokter and Misses’ Moonjelly lamps, then run back down to gaze at the beauty of Urbanative’s pop-up on the ground floor – and its selfie-worthy, candyfloss-pink courtyards. Find it at 99 Juta St.

ALSO READ: Think pink: Dokter and Misses share their vision for 99 Juta

7. Sneaker Lab

Sneaker culture has always found its place in Braam, where Nike opened its first local HQ – and Sneaker Lab at 70 Juta is carrying the torch for the next generation. The store is the place to get your sneakers cleaned, or to purchase the brand’s unique sneaker-cleaning products, but it also does extraordinary collaborations with a featured South African artist every month – our most recent infatuation is the monochrome collection with illustration star Karabo Poppy and the expressive work of African Ginger. Find it at 70 Juta St, 011-339-1025.


Painter and designer Banele Khoza just opened his own studio and design store on Juta Street, full of all the design objects he loves and, of course, his own colourful paintings. It’s the perfect place to understand the artist’s process. Find it at 68 Juta St, 078-529-4013.

9. Kulture Kollektive

This pop-up gallery at 155 Smit Street, overlooking the Play inner-city sculpture park, hosts fashion-related exhibitions curated by big-time influencers like The Threaded Man, DEAD, GALXBOY and Prime Obsession. Find it at 155 Smit St,

10. Neighbourgoods Market

Although not new to the Braam scene, this beloved Saturday market is ever-changing and expanding, and now has a wraparound balcony that gives visitors a chance to appreciate one of the city skyline’s prettiest views. Grab a cocktail at the bar and a bite to eat, then put your feet up and watch Joburg pass you by. Find it at 73 Juta St, 081-416-2605.

11. Assemblage

Assemblage is a hub in which the country’s emerging and unknown contemporary visual artists can connect and collaborate, creating a space where the experimental and unknown is the order of the day. It was one of the first tenants to set up in Braamfontein, and remains an essential stop on any art tour. Find it at 153 Smit St.

12. Artivist

DJs Kenzhero and Bradley Williams have banded together to spice up all the downtown grunge with a little glamour in their new Braamfontein place – a slick eatery, cocktail bar, music space and art gallery. Expect lots of marble, brass and crystal glasses served with a big dose of socially conscious creativity. There’s a whole extra side to Artivist that you might miss if you don’t know what they’re up to, so follow them on social media, too. Find it at 7 Reserve St, 011-339-1647. Artivist

13. The Grove

Connecting hip spots such as Eighty Six Public pizzeria, Turkish bakery Galata, African coffee emporium DoubleShot and The Immigrant Bar – around Dokter and Misses’ Isabelo solar-powered Wi-Fi bench – is a colourful public square called The Grove. Exit the back of the square onto De Korte Street, passing Fortiscue and Nokuthula Helepi’s African Flavour Books, which stocks almost 100% local titles. Find it at Cnr Juta, Melle and De Korte Streets.

14. The Orbit

If you’re looking for some of the best live music in South Africa, and one of the city’s coolest crowds, head to The Orbit. It’s become synonymous with breakout performances by up-and-comers, but also regularly hosts the world’s biggest names in jazz. The food is delicious, and, best of all, served late into the night. Find it at 81 De Korte St, 011-339-6645.